— November 13, 2017
Specific goals lead to successful management outcomes. Yet, many companies fail to set objectives and key results (OKR) goals. Meanwhile, of the companies that do set these goals, many still fail to implement a management strategy that keeps people focused on them. Goals provide managers and employees with direction, reminding them to stay focused on productive tasks that are central to their company’s success. They also tend to be used by the more successful companies, including Google, which widely popularized its OKR goal-setting and performance management system. The combined impact of carefully aligned goals at all hierarchical and departmental levels is enough to make or break a career, a fiscal quarter or sometimes even a company altogether.
It is difficult to be motivated without a purpose, and it is impossible to tell whether goals are being achieved without a measurable sense of progress in mind. Here are some tips that will come in handy during your goal-setting process.
1. Use SMART Criteria
Using this criteria is a great place to start. SMART stands for specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART criteria applies well to OKRs because the KRs (Key Results) are written in a SMART way. Specific goals set a clear criteria that allow for more accurate performance. Measurability is a similar means of tracking progress and holding people accountable. While aspirational goals are sometimes important, goals should not be completely unrealistic. Screening for goal relevance and time specificity are also key elements of goal-setting. The reality of harsh market competition means that time should never be squandered.
2. Weekly Check-Ins Make a Huge Difference
You should always know what your top goals are. Often times, a surprisingly short 10-minute check-in will help you stay on-task. What is a weekly OKR goal check-in? It’s simple—you just invest 5 to 10 quick minutes at the end of your week going over your goals and updating the measurable progress (i.e. the key results) towards these quarterly OKR goals.
3. Take a Break
It may sound excessive to some, but truly motivated entrepreneurs and managers often use at least a small portion of their time away from work to get a sense of perspective and reconsider how things might be done differently when they return. With a little introspection, one might realize that being busy all the time does not necessarily lead to optimal productivity. Take a bit of time while you’re away from work to give more consideration to how your efforts might be more directly linked to better business outcomes, and be specific in defining them.
4. Stay Focused on What Matters
Companies that go through periods of abundance sometimes begin to spend excessive resources on goals that are not related to revenue generation. Meanwhile, companies that are suffering are generally doing so for the exact same reason. This is often caused by selecting goals that aren’t impactful or a failure to set goals altogether. Many of the most successful companies have both quarterly and annual goals that are outcome oriented, and this quarterly process means that goals continue to be updated, which is necessary in a sometimes fast-changing market environment. Have an adaptational mindset that leads to a shift in priorities when necessary. This also means being willing to admit it when something isn’t working.
5. Start with the Outcome in Mind
If you’re not sure what to do next, start with the outcome in mind and project what would have to take place between now and a realistic future date in order for that goal to be met. If you’re struggling, look at other companies that have achieved the goal you’re working towards. An astonishing amount of success can be achieved by simply seeing what has worked for others in the past.
The goal creation process is less daunting when kept simple. This also increases the ease of understanding for your managers and employees. Don’t worry about using too much technical language. While many or most goals will require technical expertise to accomplish, this is not the case for the language of the goals themselves.
It’s a good idea to have a system for tracking the progress of your goals. Without a system, it is very time-consuming and virtually impossible to track progress of goals of many different employees in the organization (will take up too much time doing it in Excel or waste too many emails). Also, since goals need to be specific and measurable, a system can help track all the metrics/KPIs. Otherwise leading managers will have no way of knowing whether they are making progress as fast as they need to.
A vision is required to understand what a company’s future outcomes should look like. The reason the company was founded in the first place was that the founder(s) began with a vision. In order for goals to be understood, you need to think about what the future of the company ought to look like. A little imagination can be an incredible asset in the goal-setting process. It also helps you stay optimistic and gives employees a sense that things could be better in the future.
9. Employee Engagement and Motivation
You may have goals that seem perfectly suited to your company, but they won’t work out unless both you and your employees maintain high levels of motivation in the process of executing on those goals. Employee engagement is directly correlated with giving people autonomy that extends to the level of their competence. It also is related to benefits, rewards and compensation. Leading managers at top-performing companies understand that they need to pay their employees well in order to remain competitive in bringing in top talent. Goals also help motivate employees by giving them a greater sense of unity and purpose.
10. Performance Reviews
Be sure to evaluate your success rate at the end of every quarter or half a year. Don’t do it just once a year at the end. Those annual performance reviews can actually make your organization ineffective. The performance review must always start with OKR goals first and foremost and thus will tell you and your team what’s working and what isn’t. The most important thing is to monitor your goal progress often and also do your performance reviews more often than just once a year—say, quarterly or even monthly. That cadence will make your company more productive, effective, and much more efficient too. This emphasizes the importance of staying goal-oriented and shows all employees that the process is taken seriously by the CEO and the management.
If all these tips are implemented, you’ll be headed in a good direction towards making considerable improvements in your company’s efficiency and revenue generation. The best thing you could do is to sit down for a few moments right now and do some brainstorming, rather than putting it off for the future. As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.